Sell your land to a Jew and you can get the death penalty. Well, if you live in an area controlled by the P.A., you can. Palestine Authority Chief Islamic Judge Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi issued a warning reminding his constituents that should they sell their land to Jews, they are guilty of high treason, punishable by death. This reminder is based on an existing fatwa from 1935 prohibiting Muslims from selling their land to Zionists. Sheikh Tamimi extended the fatwa to include the renting of property in East Jerusalem to Jews. To clarify, if you are a Muslim and you rent/sell your property to a Jew, you are guilty of high treason and can be killed. Further, if you aid in the renting/selling of the property, you are, also, guilty of high treason, and can, therefore, be killed.

For years, I have argued that if Israel wants to have full legal control of the land of Judea and Sumaria (i.e. the West Bank), they should buy it; pay the land owners twice the property value, and just buy out the land. This was the original Zionist policy: they would buy swamp land in the north of the Palestine Mandate for more than twice the cost of fertile land in Missouri (far, far more than its worth). It appears that some American Jews bought some land near the Mount of Olives, and that this triggered the reminder. The extension to include renting is supposedly an attempt to keep out “immoral” influences. (After all, just think of all the immoral imfluences that will come from those charedim who want to rent in East Jerusalem). It is, also, a move to prevent that which is de facto from becoming de juro. If East Jerusalem only has Jewish residents, the strength of “Palestinian” claims to the city would be greatly diminished.

In any case, its always nice to get a confirmation as to how moderate the P.A. is. Imagine what the law would be if it was controlled by people who aren’t moderates! Instead of killing the seller, they’d likely kill the seller’s family as well. Regardless, it is my sincere feeling that when the West says “moderate” and the Islamists say “moderate,” there is a slight gap between that to which each party refers.

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  • It’s always nice to hear the moralistic Right: you stand with your foot on someones’ head, and while you are at it, you explain how he should behave.

    (and no, I don’t support Islamic laws. I just think there is some hypocrisy involved here)

  • noam – what if Israel passed a law forbidding Jews to sell land to Arabs – would you condemn the outcry as “moralistic” and say “there is some hypocrisy” among the law’s opponents?

  • Noam:
    a) There was a period in Israel when Jews refused to sell land to Arabs. The Israeli Arabs took it to the High Court and found it to be illegal. It is illegal in Israel to discriminate on land sales based on ethnic background, religion, creed, or gender.

    b) to be honest, I think their law has strategic value. My issue with it is not that they do not want to see land to Jews; that makes sense. My issue is the death penalty. Do you really think land sale should be seen as high treason. Do you think the death penalty as a punishment fits the supposed crime? Do you think that such a view is “moderate?” It makes sense to me to have a religious figure or even a government saying “don’t sell your land.” It does not make sense to me to have a religious figure or a government saying “we will kill you if you sell your land.”

    themiddle: very true. even Benny Morris point it out in one of his papers (and he is certainly one of the most post-Zionist/anti-Zionist historians out there)

  • The punishment is grotesque, but the policy underlying it is certainly rational from the Palestinian point of view.

  • Tom – Rational, yes. Acceptable, too – why? So any future state will have to be Jewish-free? If that policy is defensible then so is transfer.

  • The PA is not, and has never been “moderate”

    The only difference between them and Hamas is that they wear suits and don’t froth at the mouth in public.

    Tom, if it is “rational” for the PA to make it illegal to sell land to Jews, for the obvious purpose of keepng “Palestine” Judenrein”, then it is just as “rational’ for Israel to enact various policies to make it difficult or impossible for Arabs to live in Israel, no?

    It infuriates me no end that the “right” of the “Palestinians” to keep “Palestine” free of Jews is accepted by most people without so much as a raised eyebrow and yet these same people go apeshit and accuse Israel of being a racist apartheid state if Israel does anything they consider “racist”. Just another example of double standards where “Palestinians” have more and different rights than Jews.

    What LB said. If the Arabs get to kick out Jews from “Palestine”, then Israel should have the right to kick out the Arabs from Israel.

  • dahlia,

    First, it wan not “a period” in which some Jews “refused to sell land to Arabs”. It was the NJF – who controls much of the state land in Israel – which wouldn’t sell land to Arabs (for over 50 years!) as a rule. The NJF is in fact a government agency, which makes things even worse. And the matter wasn’t solved: even now, 10 years after the verdict on the matter, the NJF tries to avoid having Arabs in its projects. As you see, we don’t need a Fatwa to discriminate.

    But my point was more general: Israel is constantly robbing Arab land in the West Bank. In fact, Ehud Barak wouldn’t even carry out Court verdicts regarding the evacuation of settlers who sit on private Arab land, and that’s just one example. And now we have the nerve to lecture them that they wouldn’t sell their land to us.

    The Palestinian society has many problems, and I’m certainly not her to defend it’s laws, but it is not for the occupying force to pass this judgment. Not now, anyway.

  • Ephraim, it’s just an outsider’s take on it, but if the Palis want to freeze the status quo pending final status negotiations re the WB, then the land sale policy makes sense. As a practical matter, though, if peace, even a cold one, broke out tomorrow, the Palis would want to consider renting office space to potential Israeli employers in places like Hebron.

    I’d take the same view if, say, a bunch of wealthy Armenians from LA funded buying up land in Nagorno-Karabakh. When the respective border disputes are settled, issues of minority rights, rights of foreign corporations etc. can be worked out by the states in their sovereign discretion.

  • Noam,
    How many contracts did the NJF put out on the lives of Jews who sold land to Arabs?

    It’s also surprising to see the word “discriminate” used in a context where the bulk of the money used by the NJF was Jewish money contributed specifically to purchase lands for Jews in Israel.

    I will concede that once the Government played a role, the government should have become impartial, but expecting the same from the NJF abrogates the very mandate with which that entity was formed.

    Having said that, it is most certainly permitted for anybody to pass judgment on Palestinian society. Why can I read any sort of nonsense about Jews or Israel without any reservation and that’s considered perfectly acceptable, but we have to hush up about people thrown from rooftops or people killed for selling land? And what does being the “occupying force” have to do with this? You write as if Israel is an “occupying force” solely by its own choices and as if there wasn’t another side – the side we’re not supposed to pass judgment upon or discuss – which plays a role in how Israel plays its role.

  • The middle,

    It is common mistake to think that the money for the JNF comes from Jews around the world and therefore the land belongs to Jews. The truth is that the vast majority of the land owned by the JNF was transferred to it by the state in the 50’s and onwards, for this exact reason – that it wouldn’t be sold to Arabs. Furthermore, the state has absolute control over the JNF’s actions, and it even appoints the head of the JNF. That’s why I say the JNF is not “a Jewish entity” but rather a government agency that accepts donations – just like the IDF, the Israeli Police and other agencies do.

    Naturally, one can criticize the PA, and in many cases, one should. For example, the fact that the Palestinians are under occupation doesn’t mean civil rights organizations should not deal with freedom of press, gay rights, women rights etc. in the PA. But you should also understand that that when this criticism comes from Israel, it sometimes sounds like whites criticizing the black communities in South Africa during Apartheid. You have to put things in context, and the occupation – this word you don’t seem to like – is the context.

    The land issue is also different in a sense that Israel is actually taking Palestinian land all the time, both private and public land, and the Palestinians are fighting to keep what’s little that’s left for them. As I wrote you in one of our previous debates, this issue of the settlements and the taking of the land has nothing to do with Israel’s security. It’s pure and simple crime.

  • I have no idea how the issue of “natural growth”/”land theft” or whatever we want to call it is in any way related to outrageous PA laws passed by judges with 12th century concepts of religious tolerance. It would be like saying that we may have a problem with gun-related crime in our cities, but the last people who should be commenting on it are the cops, because the cops also carry guns and are involved in just as many shootings. These are two completely different issues.

  • noam – “It was the NJF – who controls much of the state land in Israel – which wouldn’t sell land to Arabs”

    So if you’re in favor of the Arabs’ anti-Jewish laws (unlike the JNF which is not a legislative body) – then you should be okay with not selling land to Arabs, right?

    Secondly, “Israel is actually taking Palestinian land all the time, both private and public land, and the Palestinians are fighting to keep what’s little that’s left for them.” I hope you’re not using Peace Now reports to substantiate this argument – since they are complete BS. I know firsthand, that they ask the Civil Administration for data, get the data, then distort it based on (wrong) UN-OCHA figures (which of course both orgs refuse to correct, despite UN-OCHA’s meeting with C.A. reps, and shown their mistakes).

  • Barry,

    As I wrote before, one can criticize the Islamic laws of the PA, But you do need to put things in context. The issue of land theft IS the heart of the matter: you take their land on a daily basis for forty years, sometimes you pay for it, mostly you just take it by force – so it is somewhat understandable why it becomes a critical issue for them, and why they make selling the land unlawful. As for the punishment, I agree with you. I just resented taking things out of context.

  • LB,

    Regarding your first point – there is no similarity between the situation within the green line – where everyone are citizens and should have the same rights – to the situation in the WB, where Palestinians have limited political rights or none at all.

    As for your second point: I don’t know what “firsthand knowledge” you claim to have, but There is extensive data on the capturing of WB land by settlers, Israeli government and Israeli Army for forty years now. In many cases, the evidences were certified by Israeli courts – but I guess they are biased as well, no?
    This goes for private land. As for public land, the notion that all public land in the WB was Israel’s to take is disputed, at best (in fact, Israel is the only country that recognized this legal trick. ALL the rest of the world sees this as a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention)

  • Noam, you’re putting the cart before the horse. Arab opposition to Jews being in Israel and various “fatwas” against selling land to Jews go all the way back to the beginning of large-scale Jewish immigration into Israel 150 years ago. It didn’t start after ’67 as you imply.

    For the Arabs, any Jew owning any land in “Palestine” has always been wrong.

    You know Gush Etzion on the “West Bank”, where terrorists jut murdered a 13-year-old kid with an axe, right? Jews bought the land there (you know, with money) and built a “settlement”, long before ’48. In the War of Independence, the Jordanians conquered it and murdered everyone after they surrendered. The Jews are back there now.

    To whom does Gush Etzion belong?

  • Ephraim,

    the question is not to whom Gush Ezion – or the rest of the land, for that matter – belonged, because both side have strong arguments and this debate – which many people enjoy, no doubt – will lead us nowhere. The question is “what to do now”. And to this my answer is clear – stop all settlements immediately. So I don’t support Israelis buying land in the WB, even if you think that it’s every man’s right to live where he wants.

  • Noam, we have discussed this in the past on Jewlicious although I can’t find the post right now. I’m well aware that the JNF received a large portion of lands under its control from the government, but that wasn’t its raison d’etre or part of its history. In fact, even to this day it is not a governmental agency.

    I also am fully aware that it has been contended by at least one Israeli government office that some of the lands upon which portions of certain settlements were built was private Arab land – which would be a violation of Israeli law and SC rulings.

    In such cases, the land needs to be returned to the Palestinians. However, much of this is also false reporting. Many areas where settlements were built were not privately or communaly owned by Arabs. That’s one of the reasons so many settlements are built on hilltops.

    The idea that “for 40 years” settlers or Israelis have been “stealing” Arab land is inflated hyperbole. I say this as someone who wants the majority of settlements dismantled tomorrow. One could make the argument, rejected by Israel, that Geneva Convention applies to the WB and therefore Israel should have no permanent construction there at all. However, since Israel rejects that interpretation, the question becomes whether settlers are taking away land in an unjustified manner.

    The answer is that they are doing no different than the Palestinians. The Palestinians will plant a field or an olive grove right up to the border of a settlement because according to the Israeli courts, this land would be locked in as theirs. They do this even without prior title to the land or even without any prior agricultural work on that land. As far as their communities go, expansion is conducted en masse without permits and with the intent of creating “facts on the ground.”

    Let’s be honest here and admit that both sides are engaged in this fight over land. E1 is being built (until the US stops it) because the two Palestinians villages on either side have consciously expanded with an eye to merging and cutting off Ma;aleh Edumim. Those of us who were familiar with the area in the past know that these villages were nowhere near as large or close to each other as they’ve come in recent years.

    So how about we stick to the formula of disputed land where both sides are trying to gain an advantage. The Israelis have the advantage of government resources behind them and the Palestinians have the advantage of population size and presence in the area under discussion.

    This post was about a barbaric law that the Palestinians seek to enforce, a law that resembles their behavior in the 1930s and 1940s. Surely, this is worthy of comment and discussion, not to mention criticism. Let’s not forget that Gaza has its own government and the PA has political control over its people and then some. The Palestinians are not orphans walking around stupidly. On the contrary, this law shows they are very much alive and fighting.

  • You’re completely wrong, Noam. Before Israel has to do anything, the PA and Hams need to put down their guns and mean it. Otherwise, you buy into the notion that the “settlements” are the “root cause of the conflict” when they are nothing of the sort.

  • noam – There is extensive data on the capturing of WB land by settlers, Israeli government and Israeli Army for forty years now. What is this data? Who’s data? There are plenty of occurrences of the gov’t taking land (for the fence, e.g.) and compensating the owner for the land taken, but the owner cannot admit this to his neighbors, or use the money, because he will likely, quite literally, be slaughtered. And so people resort to lying and blaming Israel for theft.

    “there is no similarity between the situation within the green line – where everyone are citizens and should have the same rights – to the situation in the WB, where Palestinians have limited political rights or none at all.” The prohibition is selling land to Jews – not just Israelis. It’s okay to sell to an Irishman from New York – but to a Jew it is not. This has nothing to do with rights – it has to do with unadulterated racism.

  • Neither your Irishman from New York, nor any other Irishman, asserts a political claim to sovereignty over some or all of the West Bank.

  • tom – precisely, which is the problem with this decision of theirs. Like I said, the law doesn’t say only Israelis (or only those who assert sovereignty over the west bank) – it says Jews. If it did – then it might have some validity – right now, it’s just “Jews – out!”